By Daniel Hunter

Six exciting fast-growth engineering and technology industries — space, robotics, 3D printing, new energy networks, food manufacturing and cyber security — could significantly boost the UK economy, says the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

But the IET said action is needed now to ensure that skills shortages and lack of investment do not hamper their potential.

A new report singles out six of the UK’s most promising and innovative engineering and technology industries where the UK is already among the global leaders — or has the potential to achieve that position in the near future. Eleven senior-level representatives from the six industries put forward a compelling case for why these industries represent an enormous opportunity for the UK to build businesses with global capability — and create new jobs that can grow the UK economy.

But, the report argues, to achieve their full potential, there are also some shared challenges to overcome:

Competition for skills

There are a number of engineering skills common across all of the industry areas, which means these industries will effectively be competing with each other for the best people. This comes at a time when competition for the same skills from other areas of the economy is growing both within the UK and globally.

Skills transformation

Engineers and technicians will need to train, transform and acquire new skills to grow with these fast-developing industries.

Investment

Although the six industries are already approaching maturity, all need urgent and sustained further investment to make them truly fit for the future.

Faster adaptation of new technology

Much of the potential of these industries lies in the ability of large and small businesses to identify and embed innovation in their businesses more quickly.

Diversity

To remain competitive in the future it is clear all organisations must tap into a more diverse talent pool. That means more women, who are largely absent in each of the industries, and people from a wider range of backgrounds. Diversity is vital to serving global markets, driving innovation and attracting new talent.

Nigel Fine, IET Chief Executive, said: “This report shows that these promising and exciting industry areas offer the UK tremendous opportunity for growth and global leadership. But we also hear straight from the horse’s mouth that the biggest barrier to that growth is meeting the need for high numbers of engineers and technicians with an increasingly transformational skillset — especially as these industries grow and new jobs are created.

“Government and employers in these industries will need to engage with each other — and with all stages of the education system to produce a talent pipeline with appropriate skills and talent. Investment and faster adaption of new technology are also important factors for them to address.

“We need to act now. The last thing we want to happen is that these innovative new industries fail to achieve their potential because they don’t have the skills, talent, technology and investment they need to grow.”

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